Engaging students in a consistent conversation that helps them realize and fully utilize the breadth of their liberal arts education ultimately needs to happen in the classroom. With 500 tenured faculty and 300+ instructors in the College of Liberal Arts, providing opportunities for them to engage in calling out the liberal arts advantage for their students and to think differently about their teaching has become a central focus of the Career Readiness effort in the college.
Engaging faculty in the Career Readiness conversations has been at the forefront of our college-wide initiative. The initiative has been faculty-led from its inception and has recognized the critical need for the Career Readiness framework to resonate with faculty and instructors from our many diverse departments and curricular options. The core competencies have been positioned as student learning outcomes of the college. Through individual department meetings, faculty workshops, and committee meetings, faculty have discussed the merits of the framework. Over time, the benefit of the model to students has resonated with many, and the notion that Career Readiness is a proactive argument for the value of a liberal arts education has influenced faculty to become involved.
Professor Amy Lee is the Faculty Director of Career Readiness Faculty Engagement, and our CLA Neighborhood intranet site contains detailed information for CLA faculty and instructors about ways they can get involved with the Career Readiness initiative, language for specifying the Core Competencies as student learning outcomes in their syllabi, an instructor's guide to RATE™, and sample assignments that incorporate the principles of career readiness.
Focus on Undergraduate Teaching
Career Readiness has afforded the College of Liberal Arts the opportunity to promote faculty coming together in cross-disciplinary collaborations and community. When we engage in discussion with each other about how learning works, how to make academic excellence inclusive of all of our students, and the value of a liberal arts education, we understand our work better, teach more effectively, and improve our students’ educational outcomes.
This has manifested itself in several ways, including promoting a series focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a college-wide Day of Teaching and Learning (that was disrupted in the spring of 2020), a year-long cohort focused on Building Capacity for Engaging Diversity in Undergraduate Education, and the ongoing Career Readiness Teaching Fellows program, which is in its fourth year.
Career Readiness Teaching Fellows
At its heart, the Career Readiness Teaching Fellows program supports faculty and instructors in discovering creative approaches to activities and assignments that enhance student reflective learning. Fellows explore how current research on learning and a Career Readiness framework can be applied to their own courses, and they become part of a network of Career Readiness Teaching Fellows who share their experiences and mentor other interested colleagues.
The semester-long cohort model of the Career Readiness Teaching Fellows program integrates several prongs that are woven together throughout the experience:
- CLA’s Career Readiness Framework, mainly the core competencies and RATE™
- Research on learning, primarily through the book “How Learning Works”
- Inclusive equity-oriented teaching
- Academic technology
We bring faculty together to make connections and have conversations, as well as to experience and explore and do the same things that we want them to have their students do, such as reflection and metacognition.
Our Career Readiness framework invites faculty and instructors to focus on how coursework can prepare students not just intellectually, but personally and professionally as well. The more we encourage our students to reflect on the competencies they are developing and how these competencies translate into other contexts, the more they understand the benefits and importance of what our faculty and instructors teach.
How Our Dean Makes Readiness a College Priority
Readiness is among the four pillars of the CLA Roadmap, along with Research, Diversity, and Engagement. Under the leadership of John Coleman, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, the Roadmap was developed as our strategic plan to transform CLA into a destination college. The Readiness pillar gives focus to our teaching mission, recognizing in our dean's words that “in the face of great and rapid societal, cultural, and technological change, a liberal arts education—the interdisciplinary study of the arts, sciences, social sciences, and humanities — is particularly valuable. It gives graduating students, and through them, their communities, the broad knowledge and skills to successfully negotiate complexity, diversity, and rapid change.”